Coleman seeks permit to rebuild gallery washed away by Irene flood
by Mike Eldred
Oct 18, 2012 | 1890 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WILMINGTON- Artist Ann Coleman met with the Wilmington Development Review Board Monday evening to present her application to construct a new gallery.

The new structure would be built on the same spot as her previous gallery, which was washed down the Deerfield River by floodwaters during Tropical Storm Irene, along with all of its contents. Coleman had completed a renovation of the building only months before.

But Monday’s hearing almost didn’t get off the ground. DRB chair Nicki Steel noted that the application had been submitted by Coleman without any letter appointing her as agent for the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, which owns the property on which Coleman’s gallery would be built. Steel asked chamber president Cheryl Rothman, who attended the hearing, whether the chamber would submit a letter appointing Coleman as the chamber’s agent in the matter. Rothman indicated she wasn’t willing to sign off on such a letter until the board had voted to do so. And she indicated that there were some conditions to be negotiated before such an agreement could be drawn up.

“We can’t have a hearing if the people who own the property haven’t signed the application,” Steel said. “If Cheryl (Rothman) says the chamber doesn’t want to sign (a letter appointing Coleman agent), then we don’t have an application that we can act on.”

After further discussion, the parties reached a compromise. Rothman agreed to sign the application and, rather than appointing Coleman agent, she agreed that Coleman, her husband Joe Specht, and architect Joseph Cincotta could speak as witnesses on the chamber’s behalf.

The proposed new building would sit close to, but not exactly on the spot that Coleman’s original gallery occupied. Cincotta explained that the proposed building would be a foot from the west property line, leaving more room between the gallery and the building next door. Cincotta said the space would allow better access for firefighters in the event of a fire.

Cincotta said the structure would also sit at a slightly different angle, and would be 48 square feet larger. Unlike the original building, the new structure would include a 768-square-foot second story.

But the hearing ground to a halt a second time, after DRB members asked about setbacks – the distance from the structure to the property lines. The application included a request for a variance for setbacks, but Steel explained that the board couldn’t grant a blanket variance, and needed to specify the adjusted setback being granted in their decision. Cincotta suggested that it was unnecessary, arguing that some adjacent buildings are even closer to property lines. “We know the buiding is well within the setback because the chamber is farther back,” he said, referring to the setback on the north side of the property. “The setback you’re asking about is curious to me; the property of every building in the village violates the setback.”

“Yes, they’re nonconforming,” Steel explained. “This is new construction.”

Cincotta responded that Coleman was replacing what had already been there. Zoning Administrator Alice Herrick agreed, and noted that regulations allow property owners to replace destroyed structures exactly as they had been without a permit. However, there were changes to Coleman’s building, Herrick said, and she suggested that the board consider only the changes and additions. “We assumed there was a building of a certain size there that washed away,” Herrick said. “A building the same size and location could be grandfathered, but something else would need some kind of waiver or variance. I think a majority of that building is grandfathered, but because it’s larger and being pushed back a few feet, that portion is not grandfathered.”

Based on Herrick’s assessment, Steel indicated that measurements for the setbacks would still be necessary for any variance.

After searching for documents that might shed light on the measurements, the board and the applicant eventually agreed to recess the hearing to another date, when the information could be provided.

“This really caught us by surprise, because we didn’t realize the back of the property was an issue,” said Cincotta. The DRB will resume the hearing at 7 pm on Monday, October 22.

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